Technology & Equipment

Location matters: 3 tips for where to place food lockers

Apex Order Pickup Solutions

Adding smart food lockers is now an easy choice for many foodservice programs. After all, students love mobile ordering and the convenience of self-serve pickup on their own schedule.  

However, choosing where to place the food lockers requires a bit more thought. Factors such as proximity to high-traffic areas, the distribution of dining options on campus or even where the lockers are placed within a facility can affect the success of the program.

Now that smart food lockers are a common amenity on dozens of college campuses, foodservice executives have gained experience in what works and what doesn’t, especially when it comes to choosing the best locations. Here are some tips and advice they’ve shared.

1. Place lockers where they work for employees as well as students.

The University of South Carolina’s foodservice operator, Carolina Food Co., added smart food lockers with an efficient flow-thru design. This allows employees to place orders through the open compartments in back without interrupting guests picking up at the front. In order to achieve the benefits to both customers and guests, the lockers need to be placed a few feet away from the wall to provide access in the back.

Danielle Hewitt, controller for Carolina Food Co., was involved in selecting the lockers as well as their locations. Hewitt said, “My advice is to not only look at locations that would be able to utilize them frequently, but also look at the placement of them. They have to be accessible and easy for the employees to use just as much as the customer.”

Hewitt also recommends taking advantage of the data the food lockers provide to enhance planning. “The data tells us how many orders have been placed in the lockers and what their dwell time is, and if we’re at capacity sometimes. So, we can ask if we need to implement more lockers at these locations and see if it's an opportunity for us to grow the lockers on campus,” she said.

2. Pair a ghost kitchen with food lockers to enhance dining options.

At Rider University, foodservice operator Gourmet Dining converted an unused kitchen facility into a ghost kitchen for a national sandwich brand, and placed smart food lockers out front for fast, secure pickup.

“Our goal was to also control build-out costs and reduce overhead for our clients. We found we could do all of this while maintaining brand integrity for this popular national brand,” said George Kuzma, VP of Business Development.

Andrew Pignataro, Assistant VP of Auxiliary Services at Rider University, added, “Students order when they’re 10 or 15 minutes out, knowing they'll be able to come in, grab their food and be on their way. It provides that ‘wow’ factor for students and gives them a great product.”

3. Expand dining options with hub-and-spoke locker placement.

At the University of Arizona, food lockers have been used in a variety of settings since 2020, according to Christine Carlson, Director of Dining and Nutrition. Her team wanted to utilize existing dining locations to serve areas of campus that were low on food options, using a “hub-and-spoke” approach.

One of their first successes was adding lockers at a grab-and-go market in a gym not far from the Student Union Memorial Center. “Those food court locations can run food over there so that students who are using the gym or studying at the library can quickly go pick up food there,” said Carlson.

Students love the convenience and flexibility, and it’s a great complement to mobile ordering with the Grubhub app. As one student said, “It makes it a lot easier because you can see the whole menu on your phone. You don’t have to stand in line, and you don’t have to come in contact with anyone. You just come in, grab your food and leave.”

With the proven success of smart lockers at dozens of colleges and universities, it’s a great time to take advantage of their convenience, efficiency, and data insights. Talk to an experienced provider such as Apex Order Pickup Solutions to get great ideas for implementing smart food lockers, and proven advice on ensuring their success

This post is sponsored by Apex Order Pickup Solutions